DAVY FITZGERALD AND Wexford are on the march and while the colourful Slaneyside boss is keen to quell rising expectation levels in the county, it’s not too difficult to understand why long-suffering supporters are getting excited.
After two rounds of the Allianz Hurling League, Wexford are sitting pretty at the head of affairs in Division 1B, having claimed victories against promotion rivals Limerick and Galway.
Barring a major collapse, they’ll be playing top-flight hurling next year, for the first time since 2011.
Having guided Wexford to a Walsh Cup semi-final defeat to Kilkenny, Fitzgerald’s men have hit the ground running in the League.
But with Limerick and Galway also in Division 1B, promotion looked to be outside of Wexford’s grasp from the outset.
"Let's chill the beans" – Davy Fitzgerald urges Wexford to keep their feet on the ground #RTEgaa pic.twitter.com/5EGaImaA15
— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) February 19, 2017
Source: RTÉ Sport/Twitter
Fitzgerald, however, has a history of making fast impacts with the teams he’s managed.
In 2008, he took over mid-season in Waterford from Justin McCarthy and managed to steer the Déise to an All-Ireland final appearance.
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In Fitzgerald’s first season in charge of his native Clare, he masterminded promotion from Division 1B of the Allianz League and in 2013, the Banner County won the All-Ireland senior title for just the fourth time.
And while Fitzgerald’s tenure in Clare didn’t end as he would have hoped, he still managed to deliver a first top-flight Allianz League crown since 1978.
Davy Fitzgerald with Brian Cody after Waterford’s 2008 defeat to Kilkenny.
Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO
Fitzgerald may be hurling’s version of marmite among fans up and down the country but there’s no doubting his credentials and his record stands up to scrutiny.
In three and a half seasons with Waterford, he brought them to a first All-Ireland final appearance (2008) since 1963, and they also reached semi-finals in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Clare were All-Ireland and League champions during his five years there and now Wexford look set to benefit from his expertise.
As manager of Limerick IT, Fitzgerald has also delivered Fitzgibbon Cup titles in 2005 and 2007, and they’re preparing for a semi-final clash with holders Mary Immaculate College next Friday.
Here’s a look at what Fitzgerald has achieved as a manager at inter-county level:
Waterford (significant achievements in bold):
- 2008 – All-Ireland senior hurling finalists
- 2009 – 5th in Division 1 of Allianz Hurling League/Beaten Munster finalists and All-Ireland semi-finalists
- 2010 – 5th in Division 1/Munster hurling champions and All-Ireland semi-finalists
- 2011 – 3rd in Division 1/Beaten Munster finalists and All-Ireland semi-finalists
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
- 2012 – Promoted from Division 1B/Beaten Munster semi-finalists & eliminated by Limerick in round 3 of the All-Ireland qualifiers
- 2013 – Clare preserve Division 1A status by defeating Cork in relegation playoff/beaten Munster semi-finalists & All-Ireland champions
- 2014 – Top of Division 1A but beaten by Tipperary in Allianz League semi-finals/beaten Munster semi-finalists & eliminated by Wexford in round 1 of All-Ireland qualifiers
- 2015 – Relegated to Division 1B/beaten Munster quarter-finalists & eliminated by Cork in round 2 of All-Ireland qualifiers
- 2016 – Promoted from Division 1B & win the League outright/beaten Munster semi-finalists & eliminated by Galway in All-Ireland quarter-finals
Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
- 2017 – top of Division 1B after two rounds and on course for promotion.
Now, Wexford fans are dreaming of a possible championship defeat of Kilkenny in the summer.
There’s still plenty of hurling to be played before we reach that stage, of course, but with Fitzgerald infusing confidence into the Wexford players, anything is possible.
Wexford were three-in-a-row Leinster U21 champions from 2013-2015 and Fitzgerald can cherry pick the best graduates from those crops to work with.
In addition, he also Andrew Shore, Liam Óg McGovern and Shane Tomkins to come back into the mix, with all three on the comeback trail from cruciate knee ligament damage.
But what do you think Wexford can achieve with Fitzgerald at the helm? Leave your feedback in the comments section below…
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